Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Uses of Prizes

Maya Jaggi defends the apparently 'non-literary' choice of pop singer Lily Allen for inclusion on the judging panel of next year's Orange Prize. Maggie Gee, chair of the Royal Society of Literature has complained about the lack of 'serious writers' on the panel, but Jaggi supports the claim made by the prize's co-founder and director Kate Mosse that the members of such a jury need to be 'readers' more than they need to be writers: people able to judge accessibility as well as excellence.

The danger with a highly literary jury, says Jaggi, is that 'experts end up only talking to each other', and 'the ultimate aim is to serve not just writers but readers.'

Well, maybe. It is after all an author's job, in my view, to reach out to readers. Just as long as Mosse's aim to 'entice as many readers as possible to sample not just the winner but the longlist' doesn't mean excellence is pushed off the agenda....


That's So Pants said...


You could say why didn't they just ask Katie Price, Jade Goody or Kerry Katona? They're like writers and also like celebs as well, yeah?

I agree with Kate Mosse that writers are not the only expert readers. In the case of the authors listed above, they may not be readers at all - i.e. capable of reading.

Clearly, it's necessary for judges to have some sense of how to critically respond to a book that goes beyond 'I like this' and 'I don't like that'. Whether or not Lily Allen has that ability will become apparent soon enough.



Elizabeth Baines said...

Well, what I didn't say was that Jaggi's article does go into Allen's competence, and it seems she does have a pretty literary background, so it does look as if Mosse is keeping on the right track.